I will tell you of a lady,
She has land and she has gold,
And her purse is always ready
To assist the poor and old;
“Not as alms I bid you take it—
Your’s it is by Law Divine
And that Law, --we may not break it—
Older is than thine and mine.”
Beateth ever light heart lighter
When her step is at the gate;
Beameth ever bright eye brighter
At the falling of her feet;
“Cheer the drooping heart of sadness
Succour the distressed and needy
Turn their sights to songs of gladness,”
Are the maxims of this lady.
By the rich she is not courted;
Fashion, blazing like a sun,
Turns in scorn from rooms deserted
By the world it shines upon.
Rank, and Pride that goeth stately,
Cannot condescend to know,
Yet can pity—pity greatly—
Tastes that stoop so very low.
Would you emulate this lady,
Sisters, keep no hoarded gold;
Let your purse be always ready
To assist the poor and old.
Not as alms to bid them take it,--
Their’s it is, by Law Divine,
And that Law—we may not break it—
Older is than thine and mine.



Publication:Todmorden Times

Published in:Todmorden


Keywords:charity, poverty, religion


This anonymous poem appears to celebrate the generosity of a local wealthy woman, and encourages readers to follow her example in giving to the ‘distressed and needy’. Charity is figured as largely the business of women in this piece, and the poem is addressed to middle-class ‘Sisters’, appealing to them to follow the subject’s lead. Charity is also closely aligned with religious morality, and is even assigned a moral imperative laid down by ‘Law Divine’. Published at the beginning of the Cotton Famine, the poem makes a clear distinction between this kind of benevolence and ‘alms’, perhaps in recognition of a sense of the ‘deserving poor’ – industrial workers fallen on hard times. – SR